Peaceful Balance

Garbage day shouldn’t be that difficult to remember. Only a handful of times have I missed it. You don’t soon forget it, though, when you do because it becomes a full-time job figuring out how to deal with the excess.

It’s one of those moments when you are minding your own business in a deep sleep that you desperately need after a night of insomnia, and you hear the faint sound of beeping. It floats into your mind, and it tries to make sense of it, turning it into a weird dream where you are disarming a bomb. You have to decide what color wire you should cut to save the world.

Just as you are about to snip the black one because it makes the most sense, you come into consciousness just a bit more as you hear your neighbor’s trash going into the truck.

In a half-sleep state, you start to consider time. Isn’t it Wednesday? No. That was two days ago when you had to take the dog to the vet. It must be Thursday. Maybe not. It doesn’t feel like a Thursday. It seems more like a Tuesday, but you know it isn’t because you had a Zoom meeting you attended where you had to turn off your camera because you were zoning out from lack of sleep. It has to be Thursday, then. But something says it isn’t.

That something is the garbage truck that drives past your house at ninety miles an hour because they don’t need to stop at the next place by yours because they use a different company. It is long gone into the next county by the time you are near the front window.

The last time this happened, it was a short day due to a holiday. They usually will send a driver back later, but they didn’t want to keep anyone from their family this time. I agreed but knew I would have to get creative. A week of garbage plus a week more was going to be trouble.

But when you set your mind on succeeding, you do. By the time the following week came, I had skillfully stacked as much as I could short of needing a ladder to get the final bag on top. It was artistic and practical. There was no way I was missing it again.

Our service was delayed a day, but my structure stood firm even though we had heavy gusts of wind come through. I had proven the saying that necessity is the mother of invention. You learn what your dormant natural abilities are. This is the crucial stuff they will never teach you in school.

If there were an award for cramming as much as possible into a garbage bag, my house would win it, hands down. The metal container I have is not all that big, so often, I will place the bag outside of it and continue to fill it.

The idea is to not waste room toward the top. I am often amazed at the ability of all of us who strategically place more into it just to avoid a trip to take it out. You would think it was a five-mile walk to the garbage cart, but it’s steps from the front door.

The plastic drawstring, used by normal people, is generally cinched together to close it off. Not ours. Those are there to strap down the contents that have been piled over the capacity of what it can hold. They become the glue that holds it all together.

I always have the right intention when I think I could fit just a little more in. And then it becomes a competition to see just how far we can go. If there’s the tiniest space on a side, for sure, someone will find it and force another thing in.

You tell yourself just one more item tossed in there won’t hurt, so you jam in one more paper towel and walk away, not considering that moments later, someone else is going to repeat what you just did.

When it finally looks like the Pillsbury Doughboy with arms, legs, and the beginning of a head, you make the difficult decision to stop the madness. They have outlasted you, and you know it. You now wish you would have trekked it out the day before when there wasn’t a blizzard happening outside with sideways winds.

Now it’s a six-mile walk from the kitchen with a 500-pound bag that is bigger than yourself, so you use both hands to drag it to the door.

We cause ourselves a lot of problems. I could just end this with that sentence and let us all go into a deep depression. Have a nice day.

It’s the truth, though. We take something like trash or dishes and leave them to accumulate; then, it takes more effort and adds time to deal with a task that would have felt like nothing had it been attended to in increments. We let it build up, and now it’s a monster.

Maybe instead of a stockpile of old newspapers, it’s unresolved irritation over something that started so trivial and now has mushroomed into full-blown unforgiveness. It has grown in stages to bitterness.

As you recall the event or moments of the past, the details get uglier, and more gets added to the storyline, making it into a heap that is difficult to see past.

That’s where God comes in. With divine help, you can get over it and move on instead of letting it create a larger mess, like stuffing a bag of garbage to death.

Hebrews 12:17 says,

Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. (Message)

I have let God work with me while also keeping myself away from the source of my contention. Sometimes it’s only possible to have no emotional reaction about another person by not being in their presence. You can think neutral thoughts from afar. That’s okay, and there should be no beating oneself up over that.

I used to think that my forgiveness of someone hinged on whether or not I could be in the same room with them. If I can think of them and I have no thoughts either way, good or bad, that indicates to me that they have lost control over who I am.

Pushing your feelings down isn’t a bright idea either. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. In Ephesians 4, there is some guidance on how to handle your emotions.

What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.

Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. (Message)

Nowhere does it say to hide your feelings, but you are given parameters on how to conduct yourself. You are not to be a doormat nor a raving lunatic that cannot see anything but red twenty-four hours a day. Why? Because you stay stuck, unmoving spiritually, and cutting yourself off from seeing beyond this realm. You start only to see what’s wrong with the world instead of what’s right.

And that final banana peel that someone carelessly tosses on top of your already packed and ready-to-burst emotional trash bag has you saying and doing things that stunt your growth. Not theirs. Yours.

To put it in scientific terms, to remove the mystery, your choice of how you react and what state of mind you live in most will determine your frequency, like a radio wave. Negative responses keep you in shallow conditions. Heaven is high.

Your spiritual insight and advancement depend on how long you allow yourself to operate in lower states of mind, such as fear, anger, or depression. This doesn’t mean God doesn’t love you. You are limiting and blocking your potential.

If anything, try as much as you can not to do this:

Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted. (Ephesians 4/Message)

Believe it or not, when you live in a place where you are not happy, either is God. There is the temptation to believe that you are being punished, causing a victim mentality. If you think that you are supported by a power greater than yourself, you will be.

Gradually, what burned you before, won’t be there, and more won’t be added on. You won’t have to try and find a place to put more of your unhelpful perceptions, causing the problem to linger. It will dissolve itself, and you will be given a peaceful balance.

(That’s not even full yet…)

Simple

In the winter, the sun can be deceiving. Some days when the thermometer is at its lowest, way past zero, everything will be bathed in brilliant light. You can look out the window, and it will appear as if it’s warm.

I was in the bank, and one of the tellers looked longingly out the window. Like she was missing a day at the beach.

“Oh, look,” she said. “The sun is so pretty. It looks nice out there. Is it?”

Both of my hands had the beginning of frostbite just from the short walk from the car. I was astonished at her question because this lady has worked there for a really long time. If she had just flown in from Tahiti, this inquiry would not have been surprising. It’s just a well known fact that the most bitter of weather is accompanied by sunlight here.

“I want you to imagine crawling into your refrigerator, and the tiny light bulb is the sun. It’s like that outside.”

“So, it’s cold then?”

“You aren’t missing out on anything,” I said, trying to have enough feeling in my fingers to sign my name.

If you have to drive somewhere, it’s necessary to have sunglasses unless you don’t value your retinas.

The challenge on days such as this is how to get your windshield clean. Subzero weather causes the fluid to freeze instantly. So at times, you just have to wing it until you can deal with it later. In fact, your entire car can look like you went off-roading because of the salt and the sand that is put down.

You are in good company in traffic, though. Every vehicle looks the same, its original color muted and encrusted with a white ash, chalky like coating.

You really do not want to brush up against that. If so, your clothes look like you just came out of a fireplace. That white jacket that you just had to have will be in the wash every other day with a heavy dose of a whitening agent. The minute you dare step outside with it on, all the dirt in the world jumps on you.

One time, I couldn’t figure out why my steering wheel seemed to have a mind of its own. It wanted to keep veering me off to the right for some reason. I fought with it until I pulled into a parking lot.

My wheel wells were full of thick, heavy snow that was stopping my tires from working correctly. I had to kick it all off. From experience, if you let that sit long enough so it freezes and you go to use your foot to remove it, it’s like stubbing all your toes against a brick wall. You learn as you go.

So you would think there would be nothing new until there is.

I got into my car on a frigid morning, after an overnight temperature of thirty below. We have lived through a polar vortex, so while that might seem unreal to some, we don’t bat an eyelash. You can’t. They are frozen solid.

I pulled out into the street and put on my sunglasses because squinting leads to deeper crease lines and wrinkles which is the gateway to more purchases of anti-aging lotion.

While I was sitting at the light, I heard a weird cracking sound underneath my left eye. That’s when the entire lens fell into my lap. The cold air and the heat blowing at full blast onto my face had created a situation that had caused the plastic to split apart. Similar to putting an ice-cold object into a hot oven. The two extremes don’t mix well.

I examined them and saw the small but fatal crack. It didn’t seem fair to let one of my eyes be shielded while the other would take the brunt of it all. That’s what happens when you raise two kids. You apply it to all aspects of your life forever.

I had to forgo the shades, and I struggled to see the road, but I didn’t have that far to go.

The next few days were cloudy, so I forgot about not seeing until, on a Sunday afternoon, I found myself driving directly into a highly blinding sunset. With my windshield filthy, it was nearly impossible to detect where I was going. I tried to clear it, but it froze, which I then had to defrost. This caused a fog that didn’t help either.

To add to the challenge, I was going somewhere new and not close to home. I was listening to the directions being read to me.

I had this verse pop into my mind:

You walk by faith, not by sight.

No kidding. What about driving?

I made it to my destination, where I stayed until after dark with no glaring orange orb to fight with on the way back.

My sunglasses are an item so mundane, but they play a significant role in my ability to function. I don’t think many of us realize how important something is until it’s no longer available. We take it for granted. It’s always going to be at our fingertips until it falls apart, sometimes right before our eyes. Or on our face.

It gets me to think about what else I don’t give enough credit to. Hand soap, for example. Hand sanitizer. What if that was unavailable or paper products or over-the-counter medicines? What if toilet paper suddenly disappeared from every store shelf because people started hoarding it for no good reason?

Crazy, to think of, I know. Like that’s going to happen.

I can replace what has been damaged, so that’s a good thing. Other times, you just have to learn to go without.

Driving with my vision obstructed was not easy, and I found myself instantly asking God to guide me. Cars were zipping all around even while I was going the speed limit. So while it was slightly scary, I felt that familiar sense of protection encompassing my car.

There was no need to panic but to trust that everything would be okay. God has promised us a helper who is always available to send assistance no matter what occurs. It can be applied to any circumstance. In John 16:13, it says,

But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. (Message)

There isn’t anything that is beyond heaven’s help if we allow it. If you ask, even if it’s the most complicated request ever, there will be a response that will be given.

A highly respected spiritual leader said that her one and only prayer in the morning is this:

“Help!”

The rest of her time with God is gratitude. She doesn’t go through a long list of requests but feels that this is all that is needed for heaven to send what is required.

She has embraced Psalm 139:4 that says,

God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me, and you’re there, then up ahead, and you’re there, too, your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful—I can’t take it all in! (Message)

Sometimes you find exactly what you need when you pay attention to and apply what is simple.

King

Some would say she was a determined leader, and that was true. She had to manage many employees, and one catastrophe could pull the rug out from her perfectly orchestrated day at any moment. I could hear her shoes stomping down the hall before she made an appearance.

Her expectations were extremely high, from the dress code to the volume of your voice. If she found a person’s choice of clothing for the day distasteful, she would engage them in a lengthy conversation and then tell that person’s supervisor she disapproved of their appearance.

She was not above producing a ruler to measure where the hem of a skirt fell in relation to a knee cap. She mainly did that to the younger ones she wanted to see wearing apparel from the Victorian era. If anyone questioned this, we noticed they disappeared shortly after. Yes, just like the mafia.

It left us all wondering who her next unsuspecting victim would be.

It was done with the purpose to maintain her position of authority. Literally, she threw her weight around by being intimidating.

The place didn’t run on respect for her; it operated on fear. When I heard her heels coming and saw her entering my office, I knew it usually meant we were about to get reprimanded for some unwritten, vague infraction.

She had at least thirty years on me. Her speech was like a machine gun going off directing, telling, and commanding. As fast as she whipped into a room, she flew out onto her next mission of ridding the place of any peace.

“You are stealing money from the company if you are socializing when you should be working.”

We were forced to attend monthly meetings with that kind of team-building inspirational speech.

“It is considered theft.”

Hypocrisy at its highest.

At one time in my career there, I had worked in the kitchen when I was a teen in high school. At least twice a week, this individual would walk into the cooler and devour the chocolate pudding ordered explicitly for the residents. I never saw a spoon in her hand.

Because the floor was tile, I could hear the cadence of her approach quite clearly. We all would freeze, hoping she didn’t stop to inspect our hairnets and purse her lips as she took in our appearance. We all breathed easier when she disappeared.

“The sergeant is here, I see,” said one of my coworkers who was putting water glasses on a cart.

Once she had ducked into the refrigerator to eat to her heart’s content, an older woman I worked with would always whisper to me,

“It must be her time of the month again, dear. She’s on the rag.”

“That’s what you said last week,” I would reply in a hushed tone.

When she came back out, we knew she hadn’t been in there to run an inventory. Not with pudding as lip liner.

“Make sure you check expiration dates. I think I saw some that were outdated.”

“Okay,” we would say, going along with her game. The clicking of her heels signaled the departure.

Once I moved up into a higher position, the office I worked from was right next to hers. I was fully aware that she was your ally one day, and the next, you were on the hit list.

How did I deal with the madness? I found my sense of humor. I didn’t realize what a great coping mechanism this was. God will have your finest gifts come to the forefront when trying to survive a horrible situation.

When she would swoop in acting uptight, I would say something that would diffuse her anger. Instead of getting her wrath, I would make her laugh, and she would find someone else to chew out. It was a part of me that I had never known that I possessed.

Soon, she was coming in to sit down and rest. She no longer was showing up to rattle off orders but to take a few minutes to talk about life issues that were bothering her. I still would make her laugh, but I also asked her questions to try and build a rapport with her.

It never got to where I wanted her as my best friend, but I understood her better. She conversed about the pressure of her job and the stress of her home life. I got a better understanding of who she was, but she never was a staff favorite. I had learned how to circumvent her tirades and tongue lashings.

I often would walk into the gossip of those she had run over with her harsh behavior. The worst complaint about her was that she would make life miserable behind the scenes if someone weren’t up to her expectations. Every discussion always seemed to revolve around her eventually. She had planted herself firmly in all of our minds by way of bullying.

If a decision had to be made about anything, it always came down to if she would give it her stamp of approval. It had to be strategically laid out step by step, looking for landmines that could trigger a volatile reaction. Even a man’s best-made plans can still be for naught. I heard many staff weeping through the thin walls of my office and hers. Walking on eggshells doesn’t always guarantee bypassing a wicked reaction.

I had watched from my desk people get escorted to their cars after being fired. This wasn’t a gesture of courtesy. It was like watching someone on death row go to the executioner.

We were drilled on state requirements and prepared for drop-in inspections. We were always told to act calm when a state inspector showed, and if they suddenly came, every one of us knew who to contact so the entire facility was aware. There was a chain of command to follow. Her ultimate badge of honor was to be deficiency-free no matter the carnage of staff she left in her wake.

The idea was not to let them see us sweat. She thought if we showed any nervousness, this would go over as guilt. Like we were hiding something.

I was on the phone gathering information on a potential client, and over the loudspeaker, I heard her scream,

“They are here! I repeat! They are here!”If she would have had a nuclear button on her desk, she would have hit it with a hammer.

So much for serenity. I heard the familiar beat of heels getting their workout as she ran for the front door. The atmosphere changed from tense to unbearable. This would be a week of intrusion that we all hoped would result in the news she wanted to hear.

None of us wanted to get a poor result, but the added layer of how she could potentially make us pay if we did was foremost on the minds of all.

As an assistant, it would be rare for me to go head to head with anyone representing the state. Usually, the supervisors of each department were introduced to batten down the hatches. It was one of her worst nightmares to think that one of us underlings would be able to handle a situation and say the right thing.

It was viewed like the segment in the Miss America competition where we had to give answers on the spur of the moment. Minus the swimsuit or evening gown portion. She didn’t want anyone to stumble over their words and appear uneducated. She feared that someone would babble.

Imagine her coronary arteries going into an uproar when I was suddenly greeted by one of the inspectors from the state.

“Can I come in?” He asked, knocking on the door. My supervisor had just left for a few moments, and I had to be her substitute because that was the rule. They could quiz all of us at any given moment.

He extended his hand and introduced himself. Sitting down, I knew from training, I was to close the door. This is when I saw her look at me through the window. Eyes wide and a hard swallow, with a slight head shake, were signs signaling that she thought I was about to blow her perfect record.

I heard her go into her office next door. Probably with her ear to the wall to be sure I was the perfect Stepford Wife.

He started to ask me a series of questions about finances and how payment was processed. I went through each type, pulling out examples of paperwork, explaining each one. About halfway through, I realized he had no idea what I was talking about. He seemed nervous.

“Could you repeat that?” He would say as he took notes on his sheet. So I asked him,

“Do you know the difference between Medicare and Medical Assistance?”

“Not at all. I’m new to this, so you are helping me learn.”

I went from feeling put on the spot to being his mentor in seconds. I knew what it was like not to understand something complex but necessary to perform well on a job.

By the time our interaction was over, he left like he had attended a seminar on the subject and thanked me.

She immediately vaporized in the hall.

“How did it go?”

She had listened through the wall, so she already knew.

This is how I remember her all these years later. I don’t think it was necessarily a personality disorder as it was a drive for perfectionism and power. She conducted herself in a way that left mental scars on many. Some of us could withstand it, while others escaped, often feeling like failures.

No longer able or willing to undergo her temper tantrums, they departed with awful memories of her. For those of us who somehow managed to stay aboard the Titanic, it was for a check. None of us had any loyalty toward her.

Her life stressors didn’t excuse her brutality.

She never considered the pain she inflicted on those around her. While she was so consumed by being monitored by the government, she never thought that God was watching. Every unkind word, act, and power play was being observed by heaven. She didn’t just break the Golden Rule. She crushed it into the ground under her mauve-colored pumps with many spirits attached.

No one is God, so her fate is in His hands.

The other day I saw this advertisement by a fast food restaurant looking to hire:

Why work for a clown when you can work for a King?

I knew the reference, but I saw it in another way.

In many church circles I have been in and out of, one of the repetitive phrases has been that we are “daughters and sons of the King.” So often, we slave under conditions where a message is sent loud and clear. We aren’t valued for what we do.

You might hear a thank you once in a while, but you are very aware of how ungrateful your boss is the rest of the time. You are made to feel that your paycheck is a gift, not a given. While you put in your best effort, you are subjected to the cruel nature of a dictator who is on a power trip.

When you wake up to it because your self-worth increases, there really is no going back. You are done with what was accepted by you before. Boundaries are put into place where there had been none, and you no longer can sit under the weight of someone else’s darkness and be suffocated by it.

You have this epiphany that the fear no longer holds you down. You don’t have to settle anymore to play the punching bag at the office. God has shown you the way, and He is your source for all you need.

You throw all caution to the wind and walk away, freeing yourself from the false tyranny.

In Psalm 37:18-19, God’s character is revealed,

God keeps track of the decent folk; what they do won’t soon be forgotten. In hard times, they’ll hold their heads high when the shelves are bare, they’ll be full. (Message)

Further in verses 25-29,

I once was young, now I’m a graybeard—
not once have I seen an abandoned believer or his kids out roaming the streets. Every day he’s out giving and lending, his children making him proud.
Turn your back on evil, work for the good, and don’t quit. God loves this kind of thing, never turns away from his friends. Live this way, and you’ve got it made, but rotten eggs will be tossed out. (Message)

The choice is yours—Trade in the clown for the King.

(Clowns to the left of me..jokers to the right…)

Thirst

We all have that one cupboard or drawer, or maybe several of them that we approach with caution. It might even be a closet that holds more than its capacity. You know you have put way too much into it, and you only have yourself to blame when you are subjected to the avalanche that ensues.

The accumulation of plastic containers and lids is one of them. This is where I go and search for two matching pieces and never can find them. They have gotten a divorce and parted ways somehow, even though I paired them only days ago after washing them. I end up looking at every single piece and usually have to put two mismatched ones together just to have a place to put leftovers.

When I move one, there is always another one stuck to that, and when I attempt to shove that one out of the way, two more join forces and try to fall to the floor.

Usually, I am standing on the counter, trying to block the whole shelf of them from getting by me. If one goes, they all will, so it takes a careful hand when shuffling them around. If not, it’s like watching a waterfall, and you just let it happen because it’s a no-win situation. I end up cramming a rectangle lid onto a square shape and call it a day.

Worse than that is the space that houses all of my spices. I have learned not to yank open the door by trial and error because I never know what will come flying out at me. It’s not fun to be knocked between the eyes with an enormous container of seasoned salt. It hurts.

The best way to approach it is to move slowly, and if I see one starting to tumble down, I can use the door as a defense shield to control the onslaught. It gives me a chance to catch them one at a time.

The trouble started long ago when I would go to the store and never recall having a specific one at home. If I needed it and didn’t know if I had it, instead of chancing it, I would buy another one.

That is why I own 10,000 bottles of garlic powder now. If vampires attack, they won’t know what hit them.

“Where is the oregano?” I ask when I am exhausted from wading through all the choices. My daughter has this insight to find what I need, no matter what a mess it is.

“It is on the second shelf toward the back,” she will say from the other room. And sure enough, when I look in the location she speaks of, I find it. Spiritual gifts come in many forms. The Bible says to cast your cares on God, so it counts.

Then comes the process of trying to stack them all on one another so I can walk away peacefully. Because some of them are bigger than others, it’s a puzzle, and if one of them falls, it’s a domino effect that sets me back a while. That box of toothpicks you decided to throw in there for fun, also is not your friend as it empties itself like an offering.

Before I have to make something, and if I remember, I will put the ones aside that I need so I don’t have to go through the hunt. That usually works out well unless someone comes along looking for what they need and rearranges everything. My cinnamon is now long gone into the abyss, replaced by paprika. You don’t dare just grab and go without reading the label, or a disaster awaits. You can easily measure out pepper, thinking you are working with poppyseeds. It’s not a good exchange.

Not long ago, we decided to go through the entire cupboard and toss the ones that had expired. It was so out of control. I thought for sure we had conquered it, but then in less than a month, it was jam-packed.

Have you ever heard of the phrase: Nature abhors a vacuum? This was something that Aristotle observed and said to mean that if there is a space, it will soon be filled, as this is how the laws of nature operate. This theory is clearly at work.

God expanded on this. Instead of seeing it as too much, I started to see it as abundance. While I really could stop this horrible habit of overstocking, it also shows me that we do not live in lack.

I grew up with the mindset of not having enough. This was a prevalent idea based on the statement that ‘money was the root of all evil.’ But, here is what that scripture says,

“For the love of money is the first step toward all kinds of sin. Some people have even turned away from God because of their love for it, and as a result have pierced themselves with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10 TLB)

It was assumed that if a person had money, they would lose their faith and relationship with God. When that is implanted in your belief system at a young age, you believe that you have to carefully keep yourself from slipping over the edge where material possessions become more important than God.

There was no balance to it, so there is this hidden operating system going on within a person’s subconscious mind where finances must be repelled or mishandled. Maybe you get yourself in and out of debt repeatedly. Or, if extra comes your way, you have to try and get rid of it as soon as possible by spending it. Another possibility is the notion that you deserve nothing, so you live with a poverty outlook.

You aren’t managing money, it is running you.

Several years ago, I started waking up to the fact that I was instructed totally wrong on this subject. God began to have me take notice of nature and all the things around me that had been created. Nothing is lacking or in short supply.

Every tree on my street had too many leaves to count. The same went for all the blades of grass on the lawns. In the winter, the snow piling up reminded me that we were not living without plenty as I tried to move it out of the way so I could get my car out of the driveway. When a couple of flakes got together, it would create an impassable mountain in no time.

In the spring, the weeds and dandelions were a representation of excess. When I walked along a beach, the grains of sand and the vast ocean spoke to the surplus of what surrounds us all the time.

There is no good reason to believe that we will go without when God is in charge. We don’t need to exist in scarcity. If we do, don’t blame the Creator because there is proof that this is a lie.

What stops it, then? Why does there seem to be not enough? Because we have fallen for the falsehood that there isn’t an overflow. Somewhere along the way, we were convinced that we had to scrounge to get what we wanted. It all goes back to what you think.

I saw a movie recently where a man went into the family business even though he had been reluctant to. He became a cold-hearted, ruthless person. We are made to assume that the increase did this to him, so the intention is to send a message to audiences that this can happen to anyone at any time.

When Jesus healed some men that were blind, He said:

“Become what you believe.” It happened. They saw. (Matthew 9:29/Message)

If you transform into what you believe, then you live it. If you think money will make you greedy, and you are a good person, you will block God from bringing in all that He wants to. If you already have miserly ways in your heart, that will be the outcome. It’s not the provision that creates it.

In Psalm 84:11, there is comfort given for those of us who think we are going to become changed by what the world has to offer,

The Lord God is our protector and glorious king. He blesses us with kindness and honor. The Lord freely gives every good thing to those who do what is right. (ERV)

From this, you will become an excellent example to those around you. Many just like you think they cannot have it better because they have absorbed it into their minds. When you know that God is your source, and you are excelling, people will want to know how you stay so calm when there are tidings of bad news daily. The stock market might crash, and then it might not. The gas prices might go up, and what if food becomes so outrageously expensive that you starve? Come to my house. I have some garlic powder I can share if things get tough.

How do you possibly have this reassurance that everything will go your way? Because you trust God. And when you do, you can help others rely on this as well. They can cast aside their anxiety and fears, and soon, others are following the same path.

Have you ever gone to put a sprinkle of seasoning on something, and you aren’t sure how much came out, but you decide to live dangerously and taste it anyway? And you need to hang your head under the faucet running full blast because it’s burning your tongue off? Neither have I.

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth.”(Matthew 5:13-14/Message)

If we get ourselves in order and are willing to rethink what we thought we knew, others will ultimately be led to wholeness. You will make them want to pursue the steady peace that you possess in the chaos, and it will bring on an unstoppable thirst.

(I forgot all about the candles..)

Dark Path

You really haven’t lived until your eyeballs are frozen, and you have lost all feeling in your fingers. When I bought tickets to go on a luminary walk in the winter, it sounded peaceful. An event named Candlelight and Ice was so appealing because we had not seen one flake of snow. It was a deceiving offer as it presented itself in October when the days still were sunshine filled, and the wind was warm. Not wicked cold and blowing sideways. And, the sun disappears after not making much of an appearance by 4:30. 

We made our way to the wildlife rescue that was a half-hour away. The temperature was only going to drop more, so I figured if we got there earlier, our chances of dying from hypothermia would be less. Apparently, so did everyone else. There were spaces available for ten cars at the most, and at least seventy-five of us had shown up right when it began. I had to drive away from where we were supposed to enter and park on a side street. 

This added to our time out in the elements where you can see your breath. Something that you would never think about and take for granted suddenly reminds you that you are still alive. 

At first, the fresh air feels decent because we are locked up so much with a furnace running full blast. You breathe it in, wondering why you haven’t done this sooner. By the time you dodge traffic and get back to where you started, it is beginning to occur to you that you should have dressed warmer. This is when your lungs start to let you know that they are not accustomed to taking in air that has come straight from Siberia. 

When you look around during times like this, people are basically all foreheads and eyebrows. Not an inch of bare skin is visible, and everyone moves stiffly because their arms and legs are restricted by limited mobility. They have put on layers and stuffed themselves into jackets and ski pants. The frigid air is filled with the high squeaky sound of nylon rubbing against nylon. Everyone is trying to move quickly, but they are going nowhere. 

You know that all of these people are some of the same ones that were at the Sunflower Festival in August when the temperature hit one hundred degrees, and the suffering was the opposite. Just so you can get that perfect picture of fields teeming with vibrant yellow flowers, you traipse through the dirt that kicks up dust, so you go home a dirty mess. 

“I have your name right on my list,” the lady said. “You can either go to the right or the left. The one to the left is the longer of the two.”

This was to lead us through the woods with the two trails to choose from. If I have taken the time to drive thirty minutes away from home, I will not take the mini version of anything. I am going to make sure that I drag my frozen corpse down the one that is going to give me the whole experience that offers the bluest lips and most windburnt skin. 

Both of us stopped for a minute and decided where to house our phones so we could easily access our cameras. I had on enormous gloves that were three times the size of my hands, so zipping up a pocket was a miracle. In this type of situation, you want to expose any part of yourself as little as possible. 

But then it happened. I saw how beautiful the candles were glowing on the trail ahead of me. So I removed one glove with my teeth and was going to capture it. Right as I was going to take it, two kids ran ahead of me and started tripping and falling all over each other. Then the pushing, shoving, and the wrestling began. 

There went the idea of peace as they beat each other up in the snow. 

This is where the ‘ice’ part of my night began as my right hand became immovable.

“I have to put my fingers together inside of my glove,” she said.

I did the same thing as I moved ahead. Now I was walking with fists inside of my gloves, trying to get them to return to normal, and just as they did, I saw another picture-worthy moment. Thus, began the freeze and thaw process. 

“Weren’t there supposed to be animals out here? Didn’t you say we would see deer or owls?”

“That is what the description said. I think it said if you looked close enough, you might see something.”

If your eyes are still functioning. 

“All the wildlife are smart and have gone someplace warm, unlike us,” she said as both of us felt our legs beginning to go numb. I do pay a mortgage on a fully heated house, so why would I go outside and put myself through that?  

Because it’s pretty.  

There is something that calls us into nature, even if it is miserable. Later, we tell everyone we went, but during it, you are wondering why you came.

I have had the same experience with God. You recognize the still, small whisper telling you to do something and then wonder why you are doing it. It doesn’t make any sense, it feels so uncomfortable, and you don’t have to if you don’t want to. But, you do it because your relationship with heaven is more important than any other thing you can think of.  

During a time when I had next to nothing to live on, I was in a mall with my two daughters. I glanced over at a young couple sitting a few tables away from us in the food court. I had a twenty-dollar bill in my wallet that I was hanging onto. I was limiting what I was eating to be sure that my money would last longer and that they had everything they needed. 

I wasn’t trusting God fully at the time to help me, and I lived in fear. Yet, when I heard the familiar voice say, offer them the money, I pushed my chair away from the table and told my daughters I would be right back. I didn’t give it a second thought as I walked over to them. They both looked up at me.

“I am supposed to give you this,” I said. Whenever I have done this, people look surprised. I noticed a newborn baby in a carrier sitting next to them. I hadn’t seen it from where I was. 

The young mom said,

“We were just talking about how we needed to buy more diapers, but he doesn’t get paid until tomorrow. We don’t have any extra money right now.”  

“Then take it,” I said. “It’s yours, not mine.” I had just relieved the burden of another and forgot all about my own.

That became a pivotal point in my walk with God, where no matter how much I felt I was living the unbearable, I would be a giver and act on it when I was told to. It takes a bit of sharpening of spiritual hearing because all of your logical parts will scream and tell you not to listen. Every single reason you should not do what you are hearing will manifest itself. So I had learned to move fast. Don’t think. 

I had read this in the book of James,

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. (Message)

I didn’t want my faith to be dead. 

As I walked in the cold air amongst all the softly glowing bags and containers that lit my way, I was reminded of this great verse from Psalm 119:105 that tells you who God can be to you, if you allow it,

By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path. (Message)

(This may or may not have been when my legs lost all feeling…)

Wait

It felt like football minutes for her to come back into the building. I often refer to time in that way to indicate when something should go quickly, but then it feels like it takes so much longer. It was one of those parenting moments when your child is involved, and you have to sit it out.

I had taken her to all of her behind-the-wheel classes, took her to pass the permit test, which was a bit of a nail biter even though she passed with flying colors, hired a private company to take her out on the road, spent time going on back roads that I was familiar with so we wouldn’t get lost. Because with me in the passenger seat, it’s a given. Getting lost comes by me easily.

I sat in the area designated for those of us who are not good at staving off panic attacks. I had no one around to help distract or offset my overthinking. Usually, if I can find someone to talk to, I get so wrapped in their life story that I forget where I am—no such luck. I had to wait with me, and I am not the best person to keep myself company.

The window was behind me, and I was tempted to look out and see which section of the test she was on. But then again, I didn’t want to. She was going to pass, and I had to settle it in my mind. These are the moments when I can pray, and God takes over, helping me not count the seconds dragging by.

It is said that time is an illusion. Try using that as an excuse when someone expects you at a specific appointment. Our lives are structured heavily by the clock.

Before I opened my eyes, I knew my furnace had stopped working. Under multiple blankets, the only visible part of me was my face, and I could tell by the frigid air that something had gone amiss. It wasn’t yet the dead middle of winter, but the temperature was starting to drop at night more and more.

I knew what I had to do next because I had to do it so many times before. I have lived in this house long enough that I know all of its quirks. Every other year, this would happen, and there was a reset switch that if I flicked it off and on, crossed all my fingers, and held my breath, it might come back on again. If not, I would have to call the gas company to send someone out.

I have every single appliance covered under their repair plan in case I had something like this happen. At first, it was an excellent service, but it has not been as great over the years. What used to be a one-day wait has become a week unless it is an emergency—a water heater blowing up, for example. Freezing to death isn’t a huge priority to them.

“We can schedule this for tomorrow,” the representative said.

“What time?” I asked, somewhat surprised that this was going to happen so quickly.

“My computer won’t show me a time, but I can see that I have it confirmed for you.”

“So anytime between when the sun comes up and when it goes down?”

“Pretty much. We will send an email confirmation to you so you will then know a more specific time.”

I received no such thing, so I called back in the morning by eight a.m. to verify.

“Yes. We have you in the system as having a furnace appointment today, but I cannot give you an exact arrival time. My computer isn’t letting me do that.”

So, I became a prisoner in my own home. I tried to preoccupy myself and not pay attention to the ticking clock. After four hours, I called them again.

“It says right here that you are on the schedule. I am sure someone will be out to you shortly.”

Another four hours went by.

“Christine? Can you hold?”

Like my whole life wasn’t already on one. After a few moments,

“I found you, and you are on the list for today. But, I cannot give you a time.”

Every time I called in to ask, I got a different person. I had this nagging feeling that something wasn’t right, and I wanted to get out of sitting around if that was the case. I was okay with not having anything done that day, but I needed someone to say it.

Once six o’clock rolled by, and then eight, I called again.

“We have you..”

“Right on the list…I know. Are you sure? Is someone going to come here?”

“Yes. We have technicians out until midnight sometimes. Be sure to turn on your outside lights when it gets dark so our employee can see that you are still waiting. We have had some customers not do that, so it appears they have gone to bed.”

“Okay,” I said, still trusting them.

At ten, I was getting more skeptical. I was feeling stood up. So, I called again.

“Is this an emergency?” I now was getting the after-hours help.

“Not really, but yes. I have no heat, and I have been waiting for someone to show up all day. I have asked if anyone is coming, and I keep being told that I am on the schedule. What can you tell me?”

“Do you have a space heater?”

That was the first crack in the solid foundation of lies they had told me all day long.

“I have ways to stay warm. I just want to know if someone is showing up here at this address on this day.”

“You are scheduled. It says it right here.”

“I know it says that. But, is it true?”

“If someone doesn’t show up by midnight, then call back.”

Click.

Two hours later, I was back on the phone.

“Can you see how many times I have called in today and for what reason?” I asked.

“Yes, Christine. I can see that.”

“So, it shows that I have waited all day, and I have been told that I would get help?”

“Yes.”

“And, now it is midnight, so now what? My problem has not been resolved.”

I was trying to focus on my breathing. I had lost count of how many others I had spoken to, and to take out my frustration on this one would not have been fair.

“All of our technicians go home by eight. So, who told you that you had to wait until midnight? That was wrong information.”

Breathing. Inhale, exhale.

“I am not sure.”

“Let me see what I can do. I need to put you on a brief hold.”

I wanted to scream into the nearest pillow.

“Christine?”

Who else would it be?

“I can have someone come right away in the morning tomorrow.”

Did tomorrow mean the next day or a week, a month, or never?

“How certain are you of this?”

“I am putting you in as a priority. Someone will be there right at eight.”

“Morning or night?”

Earth time?

“Morning.”

I hung up, still not fully believing it was going to happen. I decided to send customer service a note explaining what had occurred.

I got up the next day, and soon, I heard the familiar beep of a truck backing up into my driveway.

When he walked in, I explained what had happened the day before.

“Who told you that someone would be here at midnight? We never do that unless it is way below zero. We aren’t there yet.”

After he left, I was never so glad to have my freedom back. And a warm house. I ended up getting two months of no payment on my bill for my trouble.

While I was in the midst of the dilemma, it seemed like it lasted forever. When I think about it now, I just see the result. It was a hassle not to do what I wanted for an entire day because I was confined to my residence, but I did end up getting what I had asked for, just not when I thought I would.

That has happened to me when I have prayed, and I have had to be patient for an answer. They aren’t always instantaneous. We are accustomed to microwave minutes, not slow cook.

When something doesn’t come as quickly as presumed, it can be easy to lose faith and trust in God. In Lamentations 3:25, there is this promise,

God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s good to hope and hope for God’s help quietly. (Message)

It says it is ‘good,’ but it doesn’t always seem that way. While I was writing this, a page wouldn’t load due to a slow internet connection. While I was repeatedly hitting the enter button, I became aware of that. God will take every opportunity to have patience become more robust in you through any means possible.

During the ‘hangtime,’ I often have to go back and review what has been done for me in the past. Sometimes, we find ourselves finally thinking about what has been done on our behalf in the most uncomfortable moments. You begin to realize the faithfulness of heaven, and maybe that is its purpose because everything happens for a reason.

You will see clearly where you have come from and where you want to go while you wait.

(It’s 5 o’clock somewhere)

Found

I had looked everywhere and couldn’t find them. They had disappeared into the same vortex that had been sucking up our socks for years. The weather had turned bitterly cold, and I knew I would quickly morph into a walking reptile if I didn’t cover my hands.

“I cannot find my gloves,” I said twice a day every day.

I searched all the familiar places. The closets, the garage on the off chance that I had left them there, the shed, the basement, my car, under every seat, the pockets of my winter coats, under the kitchen table, cupboards, and the junk drawer. I would be doing something and suddenly have an image of where I hadn’t looked. I thought for sure I would locate them. Dropping everything, I would search and come up with nothing.

I had purchased them the fall before, so how could I have misplaced them over the summer? This was the mystery I was faced with every year. I didn’t just toss them into the trash, but somehow they ran away from home when the seasons changed.

If I didn’t do something to put a barrier between me and the weather, I would have to suffer through cracks that would bleed. While at the height of raising kids and changing diapers, I had a pediatrician take one of my red, chapped hands and say,

“You need to take care of this. You are probably washing a lot and need to put on moisturizer.”

Until he pointed that out, I had no idea how awful they were. I was too busy trying to sleep when I could and think straight. It wasn’t like I was being chased down to be a hand model.

It had been an ongoing problem even after they were grown. If I let it get out of control, it was the worst session of burning one could imagine when I tried to put a cream on them. It had to be applied with eyes shut, and mouth closed screaming.

“I cannot believe I lost another pair!” I told my daughter. She watched as I pulled items off of shelves and ransacked the entire house.

I decided to let myself suffer until I found them. If it got too bad, I would jam my hands into the pockets of my coat.

I found two mismatched options that were thin and should not have counted as mittens. They did nothing to stop the cold air from going right through to my skin. I searched for the hand lotion and discovered that this had also vanished. I imagined my gloves and the bottle sitting somewhere in the sun laughing at me while I frantically tried to hold off the incoming damage.

By Christmas, I was still periodically slathering on the product I had gotten made especially for ‘working hands.’ It had a picture of a guy with a hammer, so at first, I thought maybe I shouldn’t get it. I didn’t go about my days putting nails into wood. But, my hands were never idle, so I decided I qualified. They should rename it for those who multitask, otherwise, it cuts off a whole population of people who think they aren’t good enough.

Even with that on, I was still walking on thin ice. I am not the best at remembering to apply it because other than winter, who needs it? By the time I would go to bed at night, and as my eyes closed, I would drift off thinking about how I forgot to put it on. I promised I would do it the following day, and by night time, when I was falling asleep again, I realized I had forgotten.

Then I lost the gloves that were doing me no good.

On Christmas Day, my self-inflicted torture came to an end when I opened up a brand new pair of gloves from my daughter, who had stood by sighing, telling me to buy another pair.

When I first got them, I was mindful of where they were at all times. I tried to keep my mind focused on when I put them in my purse. On occasion, when I was in a hurry, which is every day, I would slide them into my coat pockets. Then, I would check my purse and wonder where I had put them. I was fighting a monster, and it was me.

One night, I had to run multiple errands to various places. It was warmer, so my evil twin put them in my pockets. The next day, I checked my purse and went through the entire crazy search again. This time, I only found one of the two in my coat. This led me to my car, under seats, the trunk, the garage, and back to square one. It wasn’t even spring, and I had done it to myself again.

All day I tormented myself with thoughts of how careless I was.

“I don’t deserve gloves,” I texted her.

“You lost them?” she asked.

“One of them,” I said.

At least I was getting better at not losing both. The difficult part was that she had gone out of her way to help me, and I had returned immediately to what I had always done.

“Where were you last?” she asked.

“A lot of places,” I said, thinking about where it could have gotten left.

After not being able to forget it, I decided to be shown where it was. I said out loud,

“Nothing is lost or stolen in the kingdom of heaven. Please let me see where my glove is.”

I had read that in a book, and it had worked to help me find other things. Why I hadn’t thought of it sooner, I don’t know. Maybe because I had decided to punish myself, and that was all I was focused on?

In a flash, I saw my wayward black glove in a parking lot that I had been in the previous night. I drove there, parked where I had, got out, and was reunited with it. Out of all the places I had been, this was the one I had seen when I asked for help. I didn’t delay in acting on it.

When we condemn ourselves, we shut off the divine assistance that would so readily come. In 1 John 3:20, there is an excellent reminder not to follow my horrible example:

My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. (Message)

What else don’t we see because we write ourselves off as unworthy? God has other great ideas for you, but you are too preoccupied going over all your failures and can’t imagine being forgiven or counted as productive for heaven. As unreal as it sounds, being mean to yourself is a comfort zone. It feels safer to stay in self-condemnation mode if you have practiced it for years.

So when God whispers to your spirit to take on something new, you recall every single thing you have ever done to mess up. You couldn’t possibly be a candidate for the job you are being asked to carry out. And, just like that, you stay where you are because it’s familiar.

It’s so much easier to drift with no strings attached instead of being on a steady course, advancing and going forward. It’s also miserable. At the heart of it, you aren’t happy while you pretend to be content. You have the choice to self-destruct or move in the direction that will have you fulfilling your purpose. It’s up to you, and it won’t be forced upon you.

No one is ever too far out of reach for God to heal and retrieve from the lost and found.

(I still have them. Who is winning?)

Untangled

“I have to be sick to die, Chris,” my dad said.

“No, you don’t. Where did you learn this?”

“I just thought that was how it happened.”

“People move on to heaven all the time that haven’t been sick. They just go from here to there.”

“I don’t want to get sick.”

“Then, you don’t have to. Do you think that God wants you not to be well? It isn’t a requirement to be at your worst when you leave earth.”

“I didn’t know that. I don’t have to be sick?”

“No.”

For weeks, he and I have had discussions about heaven, and I knew something was blocking his complete understanding of how eternity and God operate. Many times, his response to me would be,

“I don’t think about living and dying.”

The last time he said that to me, I said,

“Well, you should.”

He looked at me, surprised, but I was serious. A peaceful passing generally doesn’t make news. We don’t talk about it enough. We spend a lot of our time preoccupying ourselves, using distractions, and social distancing ourselves from death. With a pandemic at the forefront of our minds and the count, I can understand why we believe we need to die in a tragic or ugly way.

His attitude had been formed by a mindset that had somehow been programmed into his thinking for years. We all can fall prey to that unless we start to think for ourselves and question what we are so sure of.

A while ago, I read about a man who was golfing with a friend. One of them made a shot, and the ball landed off the fairway into the rough. As they approached where they had to go, the one who had sent it there was upset that he now had to correct the problem. His friend said to him,

“It’s all how you look at it. If you see yourself hitting it straight, you will. But, if you think it’s going to be difficult, it will be.”

He listened to his friend, closed his eyes, and saw himself hitting it perfectly. He then did that.

Authors from different periods, many of them not knowing one another or the material they wrote about, have stated that the mind doesn’t know reality from false information. If given repetitive images, a belief is formed, then manifested externally. That isn’t good news for those who want to maintain their victimhood. If what goes on around us is a direct result of how we think, then we can’t blame anyone but ourselves.

It felt freeing when I read that for the first time, but some may feel condemned. That means we have to pay attention to what we conceive in our minds. If you think the world is out to get you, it is. If you consider that good can come your way and you can work with God to make things better for yourself, it will.

In Proverbs 23:7, it is stated that what a person thinks in their heart, they become.

Do you believe yourself poor? You will be. Do you consider yourself debilitated? You are. Many say that the evidence showing up on the outside is proof that you are these things. It is projected to your outside world when you have created it on the inside.

That isn’t what we are taught in school or by our authority figures. We learn at a young age to hope for the best because we aren’t in charge. The world is. But what did Jesus say? He tended to state things that directly opposed what we were taught as rock-solid truth. In John 16:33 it says,

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”(NLT)

He also said this:

I tell you for certain that if you have faith in me, you will do the same things I am doing. You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father. (CEV/John 14:12)

It is clearly stated that we can overcome the world. We can reside here but not be ruled by it. That means giving up becoming immersed in it. Turn off the news because it’s a form of brainwashing. It’s the best thing I have ever done to get closer to seeing and hearing from heaven only.

Our realities are distorted because our thinking has become that way.

“That makes me look ugly!” she said as I was scanning items. I glanced up at what she was pointing at. The camera directly above the register was focused solely on us.

“That’s to be sure we don’t steal anything. They want us to look as criminal as possible so when they review the tape later, we will fit the profile of shoplifters.”

She pointed out how it made her appear so much bigger than she really is. I stopped what I was doing and took a good look at what this machine was doing to me.

“I look twice my age and seventeen months pregnant. Am I? No. It’s a lie.”

That is what social media and all the rest do to us. It takes strong discernment to understand that not all we see is as it is. We form impressions based on false information, and then we judge that. Soon we hate ourselves, we despise our neighbors, and life takes on a dark outlook. Some overlook all their own faults and take out their aggression on others around them. A time of silence, prayer, and self-reflection can go a long way when changing your mentality.

I recall working with a woman many years ago who was quiet. She had a strong work ethic, and her job was highly stressful. Before I knew her, I thought she was very standoffish and anti-social. Cold and not very friendly.

I discovered that underneath that exterior, she had a reason for her behavior. She didn’t want to be distracted, so she gave the least amount of energy to what was not going to help her accomplish her job. I found out that she was a nice person, but she had to cut herself off from what would distract her.

I heard coworkers speaking harshly of her once, so I told them what I knew. I changed their opinion of her in just one conversation.

The way we view things is probably the biggest obstacle we will have to deal with while we breathe. And our attitude regarding it determines the outcome. Do you want peace? Then be it.

Where do you start to live a life drama-free and one that has a foundation based on wisdom? Look to 2 Corinthians 10:4-6:

We can demolish every deceptive fantasy that opposes God and break through every arrogant attitude that is raised up in defiance of the true knowledge of God. We capture, like prisoners of war, every thought and insist that it bow in obedience to the Anointed One.(TPT)

You actually can take your thoughts when they come and decide to allow them or not. Did you know that? I didn’t either until I read that verse. When a negative thought floats in, you can say no to it. If you do it enough, it will start to transform you into a different person who will have the eyes of God.

When I got out my Christmas lights this year, they were a tangled mess. I was about to start the process of trying to straighten them out. Instead, I plugged them in, and they were all burnt out. I spent a small amount of time checking where the problem could lie. They were getting older, so I got rid of them and bought new ones.

Take responsibility for your life. Tell God what isn’t working anymore, allow it to be changed, and it will be untangled.

(I love this mess said no one ever…)

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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